Discussion Guide for How to Heal a Gryphon by Meg Cannistra

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How to Heal a Gryphon
Author: Meg Cannistra
Published: October 4th, 2022 by Inkyard Press

Summary: To save her family, she’ll have to make a dangerous bargain and tip the scales off balance.

With her thirteenth birthday just around the corner, Giada Bellantuono has to make a big decision: Will she join the family business and become a healer or follow her dreams? But even though she knows her calling is to heal vulnerable animals, using her powers to treat magical creatures is decidedly not allowed.

When a group of witches kidnaps her beloved older brother, Rocco, and her parents are away, Giada is the only person left who can rescue him. Swept into the magical underground city of Malavita, Giada will need the help of her new companions to save her brother—or risk losing him forever.

Review: In the first book of the Giada the Healer series by Meg Cannistra, we enter a world where magic is real and mythical creatures exist and we get to meet Giada, a thirteen year old girl from a family of healers. She has magic, just like the rest of her family, but unlike them, her magic works best with animals. She knows she is going to have to tell her family that she wants to work with animals, not humans, but she has been putting it off trying to figure out how to break it to them without them being too upset. But before she can get a chance, she finds herself in the most important fight of her life–one against the witches underground to save her brother. Through this journey, will Giada be able to show that her passion is just as important as tradition?

Readers will love Giada and her story. It is paced so well, with a balance of plot-driven and character-driven elements, a body-positive message throughout, and the magical system & world building is intertwined with aspects of Roman mythology and Italian folklore. I also particularly love the lesson found within the book about passions: Giada’s internal struggle of passion versus expectation is one that so many readers will connect with, and Giada will be a great guide for those in similar situations. 

I was lucky enough to be able to create a discussion guide for Cake Creative Kitchen and Inkyard Press for this book and educators will find that Cannistra’s novel includes imagery and descriptive language, complex characters, an opportunity to look at cause and effect, thought-provoking reflection opportunities, a quest-focused plot that follows the hero’s journey, and more elements that allow the reader to deeply delve into the text. 

This book will definitely leave any reader wanting more, but they’re in luck! The second book in the series, How to Save a Unicorn, is waiting for them! Happy reading everyone!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for Cake Creative Kitchen:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For: 

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The Uninhabitable Earth (Adapted for Young Readers): Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells

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The Uninhabitable Earth (Adapted for Young Readers): Life After Warming
Author: David Wallace-Wells
Published October 10th, 2023 by Delacorte Press

Summary: An exploration of the devastating effects of global warming—current and future—adapted for young adults from the #1 New York Times bestseller. This is not only an assessment on how the future will look to those living through it, but also a dire overview and an impassioned and hopeful call to action to change the trajectory while there is still time.

The climate crisis that our nation currently faces, from rising temperatures, unfathomable drought, devastating floods, unprecedented fires, just to name a few, are alarming precursors to what awaits us if we continue on our current path. In this adaptation for young adults from the #1 New York Times bestseller, journalist David Wallace-Wells tells it like it is, and it is much worse than anyone might think. Global warming is effecting the world, if left unchecked, it promises to transform global politics, the meaning of technology and the trajectory of human progress.

In sobering detail, Wallace-Wells lays out the mistakes and inaction of past and current generations that we see negatively affecting all lives today and more importantly how they will inevitably affect the future. But readers will also hear—loud and clear—his impassioned call to action, as he appeals to current and future generations, especially young people. As he “the solutions, when we dare to imagine them . . . are indeed motivating, if there is to be any chance of preserving even the hope for a happier future—relatively livable, relatively fulfilling, relatively prosperous, and perhaps more than only relatively just.”

About the Author: David Wallace-Wells is a columnist and deputy editor at New York magazine. He has been a national fellow at the New America Foundation and was previously the deputy editor of The Paris Review. He lives in New York City.

Review: This is an intense book. Like shared in the excerpt below, climate change is a “hyperobject” which makes it seems so intimidating, but David Wallace-Wells does a good job of taking this daunting reality and potential future and breaking it down for the reader though he definitely did not sugar coat anything for the Young Reader edition. It is terrifying and a call to action. But it is also so important, and I am so glad that the author and publisher decided to make it available and accessible for young readers.

I really liked the structure of the books. Wallace-Wells didn’t combine everything and just throw it all at the reader. Each of the four parts are broken up into smaller topics where he focuses on just those aspects. For example, climate changes’ effect on hunger, wild fires, air, plagues, etc. This allows the reader to process each part and not get too overwhelmed.

I also appreciate that he added an afterword which has updates since the original book was published. I think this shows readers that science changes and needs to be updated and make the book more reliable.

I do need to add a warning: The book will not help with eco-anxiety. If anything, it will make it worse. I had to pause the book sometimes to take a breath.

Tools for Navigation: This text could definitely be used in a high school course looking at global warming and climate change since he does a great job of connecting the science to reality. I would love to see this text used in English class as the science is studied in science: a cross-curricular gem of an opportunity.

Most importantly, though, this book needs to get into kids’ hands. It reminds them of the importance of the decisions that our current and future generations need to make about our environment.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What are some actions that we could begin doing to help with the future?
  • Why did the author add to the book when he rewrote it for Young Readers?
  • How has human progression been the downfall for our Earth?
  • Why does climate change seem so daunting to many and thus leads to doing nothing?
  • What do you think is the most important thing that humans need to do now?
  • How will climate change directly impact where you live?

Flagged Passages: Chapter 1: Cascades

The world will be what we make it–perhaps what you make it. The timelines are indeed that short.

Consider the speed of change. The earth has experienced five mass extinctions before the one we are living through now, each so complete a wiping of the fossil record that it functioned as an evolutionary reset, the planet’s phylogenetic tree first expanding, then collapsing, at intervals, like a lung: 86 percent of all species dead 450 million years ago; 70 million years later, 75 percent; 125 million years later, 96 percent; 50 million years later, 80 percent; 135 million years after that, 75 percent again. All but one of these involved climate change produced by greenhouse gas. The most notorious was 250 million years ago; it began when carbon dioxide warmed the planet by five degrees Celsius, accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane, another greenhouse gas, and ended with all but a sliver of life on Earth dead. We are currently adding carbon to the atmosphere at a considerably faster rate–by most estimates, at least ten times faster. The rate is one hundred times faster than at any point in human history before the beginning of industrialization. And there is already, right now, fully a third more carbon in the atmosphere than at any point in the last 800,000 years–perhaps in as long as 15 million years. There were no humans then. The oceans were more than a hundred feet higher.

Many perceive global warming as a sort of moral and economic debt, accumulated since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and now come due after several centuries. In fact, more than half the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has been emitted in just the past three decades. The United Nations established its climate change framework in 1992, building a political consensus out of a scientific consensus and advertising it unmistakably to the world; this means we have now done as much damage to the environment knowingly as we ever managed in ignorance. Global warming may seem like a distended morality tale playing out over several centuries and inflicting a kind of Old Testament retribution on the great-great-grandchildren of those responsible, since it was carbon burning in eighteenth-century England that lit the fuse of everything that has followed. But that is a fable about historical villainy that acquits those of us alive today–unfairly. The majority of the burning has come since the 1994 premiere of Friends. A quarter of the damage has been done since Barack Obama was elected president, and Joe Biden vice president, in 2008. Since the end of World War II, the figure is about 90 percent. The story of the industrial world’s kamikaze mission is the story of a single lifetime–the planet brought from seeming stability to the brink of catastrophe in the years between a baptism or bar mitzvah and a funeral.

It is the lifetime of many of the scientists who first raised public alarm about climate change, some of whom, incredibly, remain working–that is how rapidly we have arrived at this promontory, staring down the likelihood of three degrees Celsius of warming by the year 2100. Four degrees is possible as well–perhaps more. According to some estimates, that would mean that whole regions of Africa and Australia and the United States, parts of South America north of Patagonia, and Asia south of Siberia would be rendered brutally uncomfortable by direct heat, desertification, and flooding. Certainly, it would make them inhospitable, and many more regions besides. Which means that, if the planet was brought to the brink of climate catastrophe within the lifetime of a single generation, the responsibility to avoid it belongs with a single generation, too. We all also know that second lifetime. It is ours.

I am not an environmentalist and don’t even think of myself as a nature person. I’ve lived my whole life in cities, enjoying gadgets built by industrial supply chains I hardly think twice about. I’ve never gone camping, not willingly anyway, and while I always thought it was basically a good idea to keep streams clean and air clear, I also always accepted the proposition that there was a trade-off between economic growth and its cost to nature–and figured, well, in most cases I’d probably go for growth. I’m not about to personally slaughter a cow to eat a hamburger, but I’m also not about to go vegan. In these ways–many of them at least–I am like every other American who has spent their life fatally complacent, and willfully deluded, about climate change, which is not just the biggest threat human life on the planet has ever faced but a threat of an entirely different category and scale. That is, the scale of human life itself.

A few years ago, I began collecting stories of climate change, many of them terrifying, gripping, uncanny narratives, with even the most small-scale sagas playing like fables: a group of Arctic scientists trapped when melting ice isolated their research center, on an island populated also by a group of polar bears; a Russian boy killed by anthrax released from a thawing reindeer carcass, which had been trapped in permafrost for many decades. My file of stories grew daily, but very few of the clips, even those drawn from new research published in the most pedigreed scientific journals, seemed to appear in the coverage about climate change the country watched on television and read in its newspapers. In those places, climate change was reported, of course, and even with some tinge of alarm. But the discussion of possible effects was misleadingly narrow, limited almost invariably to the matter of sea-level rise. Just as worrisome, the coverage was sanguine, all things considered. As recently as the 1997 signing of the landmark Kyoto Protocol, two degrees Celsius of global warming was considered the threshold of catastrophe: flooded cities, crippling droughts and heat waves, a planet battered daily by hurricanes and monsoons we used to call “natural disasters” but will soon normalize as simply “bad weather.” More recently, the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands offered another name for that level of warming: “genocide.”

This is not a book about the science of warming; it is about what warming means to the way we live on this planet. But what does that science say? It is complicated research, because it is built on two layers of uncertainty: what humans will do, mostly in emitting greenhouse gases, but also in how we adapt to the environment we have transformed and how the climate will respond, both through straightforward heating and a variety of more complicated and sometimes contradictory feedback loops. But even shaded by those uncertainty bars, it is also very clear research, in fact terrifyingly clear. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) offers the gold-standard assessments of the state of the planet and the likely trajectory for climate change. In its latest report, the IPCC suggested the world was on track for about 3 degrees of warming, bringing the unthinkable collapse of the planet’s ice sheets not just into the realm of the real but into the present.

Because these numbers are so small, we tend to trivialize the differences between them–one, two, four, five. Human experience and memory offer no good analogy for how we should think of those thresholds, but, as with world wars or recurrences of cancer, you don’t want to see even one.

At two degrees of warming, the ice sheets will likely begin their collapse, 400 million more people could suffer from water scarcity, and major cities in the equatorial band of the planet will become lethally hot in summer. There would be thirty-two times more extreme heat waves in India, and each would last five times as long, exposing ninety-three times more people. This is our best-case scenario.

At three degrees, southern Europe would be in permanent drought, and the average drought in Central America would last nineteen months longer and in the Caribbean twenty-one months longer. In northern Africa, the figure is sixty months longer–five years. The areas burned each year by wildfires would double in the Mediterranean and sextuple, or more, in the United States.

At four degrees, damages from river flooding could grow thirtyfold in Bangladesh, twentyfold in India, and as much as sixtyfold in the United Kingdom. In certain places, six climate-driven natural disasters could strike simultaneously. Conflict and warfare could double.

Even if we pull the planet up short of two degrees by 2100, we will be left with an atmosphere that contains 500 parts per million of carbon–perhaps more. The last time this was the case, sixteen million years ago, the planet was not two degrees warmer; it was somewhere between five and eight, giving the planet about 130 feet of sea-level rise, enough to draw a new American coastline as far west as I-95. Some of these processes take thousands of years to unfold, but they are also irreversible and therefore effectively permanent. You might hope to simply reverse climate change; you can’t. It will outrun all of us.

This is part of what makes climate change what the theorist Timothy Morton calls a “hyperobject”–a conceptual fact so large and complex that, like the internet, it can never be properly comprehended. There are many features of climate change–its size, its scope, its brutality–that alone satisfy this definition; together, they might elevate it into a higher and more incomprehensible conceptual category yet. But time is perhaps the most mind-bending feature, the worst outcomes arriving so long from now that we reflexively discount their reality.

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction, specifically about climate change

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Nicole Banholzer PR and the Publisher for providing a copy for review!**

Frankie and Friends: Breaking News by Christine Platt, Illustrated by Alea Marley

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Frankie and Friends: Breaking News
Author: Christine Platt
Illustrator: Alea Marley
Published October 10th, 2023 by Walker Books

Summary: Frankie’s mama is leaving to cover a breaking news story. Frankie, Papa, and Frankie’s teenage sister, Raven, are all proud of Mama, even though they miss her when she’s away. But Frankie has a great idea: she can make her own news show! After all, Mama has told her that news is happening around her all the time. With a little assistance from her friends—including her doll Farrah, Robert the toy robot, and her tabby cat, Nina Simone—Frankie prepares for her first “broadcast.” And when she hears someone crying in the house, she knows that’s the developing story she must cover. With humor, empathy, and imagination, Frankie gets the scoop—and learns that even mature older sisters can miss Mama sometimes. With sweet illustrations throughout, this engaging new series embraces communication and compassion and is a refreshing portrayal of Black women in journalism. Young reporters will learn the terms of the trade, which are clearly presented in the text and reinforced in a glossary at the end of the book.

In a charming new chapter-book series by a social-change advocate, young Frankie emulates her journalist mama by reporting on household news with the help of her sister and an unlikely news crew.

About the Creators: 

Christine Platt is a literacy advocate and historian who believes in using the power of storytelling as a tool for social change. She holds a BA in Africana studies, an MA in African American studies, and a JD in general law. Although her only daughter is now in college, Christine Platt continues to draw on their adventures together as inspiration for her children’s literature. She has written more than thirty books for young readers and currently resides in Washington, DC.

Alea Marley is an award-winning illustrator of many books for children, including Phoebe Dupree Is Coming to Tea! by Linda Ashman. She loves creating whimsical scenes that are filled with patterns, texture, and bursts of color. Alea Marley lives in northern England.

Review: I love when I read a book, and I can immediately see it being loved by readers and how educators can utilize it in the classroom. Breaking News did exactly that–readers are going to love Frankie, her family, her group of stuffed animals, and her go-get-em attitude. They will also connect with Frankie’s emotions and curiosity.  Then, on top of that, educators can easily grab so much from the book to use in the classroom, especially the journalism aspects. And all of this is done in a early chapter book that is age appropriate, full of family dynamics, promotes imagination, and has beautiful full-page color illustrations!

Tools for Navigation: The author does a great job intertwining journalism terminology with the story and also has back matter which delves deeper into the different terms. I would love to see these aspects used to help a class get started on a class newspaper or, like Frankie and her mom, an oral report that is news-based.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does Frankie’s curiosity help her start the important conversation with her sister?
  • What emotions does Frankie, and her family, go through when her mom needs to leave to cover a news story?
  • How does Frankie’s mom inspire Frankie?
  • What traits does Frankie have that will make her a good journalist?
  • What journalistic terms did you learn from the book?
  • What do you think was the author’s purpose in this book?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Polly Diamond series by Alice Kupiers, Illustrated by Diana Toledano; Pigeon Private Detectives series by Christee Curran-Bauer; King and Kayla series by Dori Hillestad Butler, Illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Nicole Banholzer PR for providing a copy for review!**

Pigeon Private Detectives #1: The Case of the Missing Tarts by Christee Curran-Bauer

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Pigeon Private Detectives #1: The Case of the Missing Tarts
Author: Christee Curran-Bauer
Published August 29th, 2023 by Union Square & Co.

Summary: The Pigeon Detectives are looking forward to devouring a delectable platter of jam tarts—until the tasty treats are stolen from right under their beaks! With tummies grumbling, the PPD are on the hunt for clues, but can the detectives recover the tarts in time before they are all eaten—or worse—stale? As the list of suspects grows longer, our heroes wonder if they’ll ever catch the thief jam-handed.

Pigeon Private Detectives: The Case of the Missing Tarts, Christee Curran-Bauer’s author-illustrator debut, pokes fun at detective procedurals with kid-friendly humor!

Praise: 

“[W]ith a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor and plenty of puns. The narrative, told through a mix of comic book–style panels and prose, is brought to life with crisp-lined cartoons with mostly pastel tones and a bit of film noir thrown in when the mood is right. An enjoyable homage to the dramatic mystery.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Readers will flock to Curran-Bauer’s lighthearted mystery. A glossary defining detective terms and a fact sheet conclude.” —Publishers Weekly

“Full of clues and coos, The Case of the Missing Tarts is a delightful and delicious detective tale!” –John Patrick Green, author of the InvestiGators series

About the Author: Christee Curran-Bauerhas a BFA from Pratt Institute in communications design/illustration, and is a proud member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Christee is a Jersey girl currently living in Virginia Beach with her family and spoiled French bulldog. She invites you to visit her at christeewithadoublee.blogspot.com and on Twitter at @ChristeeDoubleE.

Review: This book is going to be a great ladder between early readers and longer chapter books as it is an introduction to pages with a bit longer text but it is mixed with paneled pages. This aspect, combined with the cartoon-esque illustrations, is going to lend itself to finding so many readers. Oh, and everyone loves a mystery, and this series is off to a great start with its first case. I also was a fan of the three pigeons, their different personalities, job focuses, and sense of style.

Tools for Navigation: The mystery of this text lends itself directly to predicting. Readers can look at clues and make guesses right along side the Pigeon Private Detectives! Also, the book takes the reader through 6 steps of an investigation which could lead directly to activities and could even be compared to the scientific method. OH! And with so much baking in the book–a baking cross-curricular activity would fit right in.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Follow the investigative steps with the Pigeon Private Detectives. Did you predict who the culprit was? If so, what clues did you use? If not, what tricked you and what did you miss?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Mysteries, animal chapter books

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Jenny at Union Square for providing a copy for review!**

Discussion Guide for Merci Suárez Plays it Cool by Meg Medina

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Merci Suárez Plays it Cool
Author: Meg Medina
Published: September 13th, 2022 by Candlewick Press

Summary: In a satisfying finale to her trilogy, Newbery Medalist Meg Medina follows Merci Suárez into an eighth-grade year full of changes—evolving friendships, new responsibilities, and heartbreaking loss.

For Merci Suárez, eighth grade means a new haircut, nighttime football games, and an out-of-town overnight field trip. At home, it means more chores and keeping an eye on Lolo as his health worsens. It’s a year filled with more responsibility and independence, but also with opportunities to reinvent herself. Merci has always been fine with not being one of the popular kids like Avery Sanders, who will probably be the soccer captain and is always traveling to fun places and buying new clothes. But then Avery starts talking to Merci more, and not just as a teammate. Does this mean they’re friends? Merci wants to play it cool, but with Edna always in her business, it’s only a matter of time before Merci has to decide where her loyalty stands. Whether Merci is facing school drama or changing family dynamics, readers will empathize as she discovers who she can count on—and what can change in an instant—in Meg Medina’s heartfelt conclusion to the trilogy that began with the Newbery Medal–winning novel.

Discussion Questions: 

After writing the educators’ guide for Merci Suárez Changes Gears, I was so happy that Candlewick returned and asked me to create this discussion guide for the finale of the trilogy. Please view and enjoy the guide I created:

You can also access the discussion guide here.

You can learn more about Merci Suárez Plays it Cool on Candlewick’s page.

Recommended For: 

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Educators’ Guide for Fox + Chick: The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier

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The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories (Fox + Chick #2)
Author and Illustrator: Sergio Ruzzier
Published: March 5th, 2019

Summary: Opposite personalities attract for these two unlikely friends: In the second book of this lauded series, Fox and Chick are off on three new adventures involving a boat ride, a mysterious box, and an early morning trip to see the sunrise. Despite the antics ensuing from their different personalities, the contradictory duo always manages to have fun together.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for Chronicle Books for The Quiet Boat Ride:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories on Chronicle’s page.

Recommended For: 

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What About Philosophy? An Illustrated Q&A Book for Kids by Guénaēlle Boulet and Anne-Sophie Chilard, Illustrated by Pascal Lemaître

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What About Philosophy? An Illustrated Q&A Book for Kids
Author: Guénaēlle Boulet and Anne-Sophie Chilard
Illustrator: Pascal Lemaître
Philosophical Consultants: Oscar Brenifier and Jean-Charles Pettier
Published May 9th, 2023 by Twirl Books

Summary: What is money for? Why are there wars? Should we always be nice? Curious kids have lots of questions about the world they live in and the feelings they have. They will explore answers to these questions and many more in this exceptional illustrated Q&A book. Questions about how to think about freedom, jealousy, and going to school, among others, are answered in a fun, kid-friendly way and accompanied by quirky cartoon illustrations that will entertain readers and help them talk about big life questions.

  • 80 pages of real-life questions and answers for kids ages 7 and up
  • Fun illustrations that engage readers
  • Content reviewed by philosophy advisers and sensitivity reader What About: Philosophy is a Q&A book that offers easy-to-understand answers to challenging life questions!
  • Great family and classroom read-aloud book
  • Nonfiction books for kids
  • Educational books for elementary school students

About the Creators:

Anne-Sophie Chilard is the editor-in-chief of the children’s magazine J’aime lire. She is the co-author of several books of activities and recipes for children, and lives in Paris.

Jean-Charles Pettier taught philosophy in high school, and is now a doctoral candidate in philosophy. He introduces the subject to young children through a column in the children’s magazine, Pomme d’api, He lives near Paris.

Pascal Lemaitre is the illustrator of the numerous children’s books, including the bestselling picture books, Come with Me, Do Not Open This Book!, and many more. During the year, he splits his time between Brussels, Belgium, and Brooklyn, New York.

Review: There are many questions in life that kids ask and adults may not know how to answer. This book is the answer! It explains so much to the reader while still leaving the reader to have opinions of their own. You can tell, based on its push for metacognition and deeper thinking, that it was definitely based in philosophy. While the authors and illustrator make the book engaging and fun, but the information within the book is truly thought provoking and will help kids work through some of the truly tough questions.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation & Discussion Questions: I think educators will definitely add this to their read aloud rotation in later elementary classes. They can do a different section each time which will lead to wonderful classroom discussions! I mean, each section is its own discussion question!

Flagged Passages: 

Note to Readers:

Why do we exist? What is love? Why is there war? These kinds of big life questions are what philosophy is all about. Curious people young and old have always wondered why the world is the way it is. Yet these philosophical questions rarely have one simple answer.

The purpose of this book is to help guide you as you think about the many possible answers to life’s big questions. The ideas explored here were inspired by classroom discussions and consultation with philosophers Oscar Brenifier and Jean-Charles Pettier. The fun, accessible text and whimsical illustrations are your key to discovering how to think for yourself and form  your own opinions.

Enjoy!

Read This If You Love: Q&A Books, Philosophy

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**